Hunter Biden makes surprise appearance at contempt of Congress hearing

Hunter Biden made a surprise appearance at a markup of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee on Wednesday before the panel was set to approve a resolution to hold the president’s son in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena last month. 

Fireworks went off at the start of the markup when lawmakers recognized that Biden was in the hearing room. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) asked “who bribed Hunter Biden to be here,” criticizing the surprise appearance.

“You are the epitome of white privilege. Coming in to the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed. What are you afraid of? You have no balls to come up here,” she said. “I think that Hunter Biden should be arrested right here, right now, and go straight to jail,” she added. Rep. 

Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) then suggested the panel hold a vote on hearing from Biden “right now,” asking for a show of hands from the room. Only Democrats raised their hands. Biden walked into the hearing with his attorney, Abbe Lowell, and Kevin Morris, an associate and entertainment lawyer who is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a deposition next week. 

Biden and Lowell exited the hearing room minutes later, just as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was beginning to speak — “What a coward,” Greene said — with Lowell then delivering a statement to reporters criticizing GOP lawmakers and defending his client. “Hunter Biden was and is a private citizen. Despite this, Republicans have sought to use him as a surrogate to attack his father,” Lowell said.

The House Oversight and Judiciary panels are moving to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress after he failed to appear for a closed-door deposition last month as part of their impeachment inquiry into his father, President Biden. 

The younger Biden had offered only to testify in a public setting — and delivered a statement to the press outside the Capitol rather than attend the deposition, saying that his father “was not financially involved in my business.” But Republicans said a public format, with rounds of questioning cycling between members on the panel, was insufficient alone for the investigation, offering a public hearing at a later date and to release the transcript of the deposition. The GOP leaders noted that initial closed-door testimony is standard for such inquiries.

“The Republican chairs today then are commandeering an unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt who has offered to publicly answer all their proper questions,” Lowell, Biden’s attorney, said Wednesday. “The question there is, what are they afraid of?” He said testifying first in a private deposition is “a tactic that Republicans have repeatedly misused in their political crusade to selectively leak and mischaracterize what witnesses have said,” citing a previous statement by Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) saying that he would “drop everything” if Biden wanted to testify publicly. 

“Last fall, Chairman Comer made an explicit offer that people like Hunter had, like him, the option to attend a deposition or a public hearing, whichever they chose. Hunter chose a hearing where Republicans could not distort, manipulate, or misuse that testimony,” Lowell said.

“And then ignoring that invitation and proving once again that they cared little about the truth and wanted only to quote, move the needle of political support, which was a quote Chairman Comer confessed was his true purpose,” he added. Comer later during the hearing defended how the panel has sought testimony from various witnesses in the probe. 

“I do feel compelled to respond to this. We have engaged in good-faith negotiations. We’ve offered every witness a narrow scope of topics, documents in advance, they can choose the date. Hunter Biden’s lawyer has not engaged with the committee regarding Hunter Biden,” he said.

Oversight Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), however, said in his opening statement that Comer had “refused offers from Hunter Biden and his attorney to meet with the Chairman and his staff and with members of this Committee.” House Republicans have long investigated alleged “influence peddling” by the president’s son while his father was vice president, going as far as to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden has centered in large part on Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, as well as the Department of Justice’s handling of a tax crimes investigation into Hunter Biden. 

Both Hunter Biden and the White House have repeatedly said that the president was not involved in his family’s foreign business activities.

The White House wouldn’t say if the president was informed that the younger Biden would be making his surprise visit to Capitol Hill. 

When he made remarks outside the Capitol in December, President Biden was “familiar” with what his son planned to say. “Hunter, as you all know, is a private citizen. He’s not a member of this White House. 

He makes his own decisions— like he did today—about how to respond to Congress,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday. Jean-Pierre also said she wouldn’t respond to Mace’s comments that Hunter Biden should be arrested.

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